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Lamar Smith

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 19, 2012

    A bipartisan coalition of Congressional lawmakers yesterday reintroduced federal legislation to provide state-authorized medical marijuana patients and their providers with an affirmative defense from federal prosecution.

    The legislation, H.R. 6134 –- The Truth in Trials Act (Read the text of the bill here.) –- would allow certain federal defendants the opportunity to “introduce evidence (at trial) demonstrating that the marijuana-related activities for which the person stands accused were performed in compliance with state law regarding the medical use of marijuana.”

    It states, “It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution or proceeding under any federal law for marijuana-related activities, which the proponent must establish by a preponderance of the evidence, that those activities comply with state law regarding the medical use of marijuana.”

    Fifteen Democrats and three Republicans are sponsoring the measure.

    Under present law, federal defendants are legally prevented from presenting evidence at trial that their actions were in compliance with state medical marijuana laws — or even acknowledging the fact that cannabis possesses therapeutic value — because the substance remains classified as a Schedule I prohibited substance under federal law. Passage of the Truth in Trials Act would ease these restrictions.

    House Bill 6134 is pending before the House Committee on the Judiciary, which is Chaired by ardent pot prohibitionist Lamar Smith (R-TX).

    Advocates can voice their support for The Truth in Trials Act to their members of Congress here.

    Of course, this legislation would not even be necessary were the Obama administration simply to have upheld the President’s one-time pledge to no longer use federal “Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws” regulating the physician authorized use and distribution of medical cannabis. You can tell President Obama to halt the administration’s escalating attack on medical cannabis here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director July 9, 2011

    HR 2306: End Federal Marijuana ProhibitionIt has been a few weeks since a bipartisan coalition of legislators introduced HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, into the House of Representatives. This legislation would prohibit the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess personal use amounts of marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Similar to the ending of alcohol prohibition, the federal government would get out of the business of arresting responsible marijuana smokers and allow states to set their own policies.

    HR 2306 was assigned to both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The bill currently sits in legislative purgatory and how long it will stay there is entirely dependent on two men. The chairmen of these two committees have thus far refused to schedule the bill for a hearing. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has made it clear he has no intentions of hearing the bill. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has yet to take a strong public stance.

    Stand up for states’ rights and civil liberties by joining NORML in telling these two elected officials that we believe HR 2306 is sound public policy that deserves discussion.

    Click here to sign our petition and tell Representatives Smith and Upton to schedule HR 2306 for a hearing!

    In better news, we are pleased to announce that HR 2306 now has a new co-sponsor! Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) has contacted Barney Frank’s office and declared his intention to co-sponsor this legislation. He explained his support in a letter to a constituent:

    Thank you for contacting me about repealing the federal laws prohibiting the possession of marijuana. I appreciate you taking the time to write, and I welcome this opportunity to respond.

    I have contacted Representative Barney Frank’s office and requested to be added as a co-sponsor of H.R. 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. I share your concern about the problems associated with marijuana in regards to enforcing drug laws, creating a black market for illegal drugs, and punishing drug users who need treatment. Federal law enforcement should concentrate its efforts on measures that truly protect the public, and I do not believe that prosecuting those found in possession of small amounts of marijuana should be a federal priority.

    Law enforcement agents are forced to operate under scarce resources and I believe it is irresponsible to spend those resources prosecuting the personal use of marijuana. Far more pressing problems demand attention. I think marijuana use for non-medical reasons is a bad idea, and I would discourage anyone from using it, but I don’t believe making it a crime has been a useful or just policy.

    If you are interested in following a particular piece of legislation through the legislative process, the website hosted by the Library of Congress at http://thomas.loc.gov is extremely helpful. It provides a wealth of information about legislation under consideration in the current Congress as well as bills introduced in earlier sessions. The site is called Thomas to honor President Thomas Jefferson and his belief in public access to the workings of government.

    Again, thank you for contacting me. I welcome your views, and look forward to hearing from you in the future.

    Source

    You can keep up to date on HR 2306 by visiting its Facebook page. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to visit NORML’s Take Action Center and contact your elected officials and encourage them to support HR 2306.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 28, 2011

    Tell members of Congress that you support HR 2306, the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011’ and that you oppose efforts by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) to stifle its debate.

    You can do so by clicking the link below to NORML’s commentary, ‘Let the states decide their own marijuana policies,’ which appears today on TheHill.com’s influential Congress blog and is excerpted below. (The Hill is the paper of record for Washington, DC insiders, members of Congress, and their staff.)

    After you have done so, please also join the thousands of other advocates who have e-mailed their US House Congressional Representative here and urged him or her to support ending federal marijuana prohibition. You can also stay up-to-date regarding the latest political developments surrounding HR 2306 via the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 Facebook page here.

    Let the states decide their own marijuana policies
    via The Hill.com

    [excerpt] Lawmakers for the first time have introduced legislation in Congress to end the federal criminalization of the personal use of marijuana.

    The bipartisan measure — H.R. 2306, the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011’ … prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess personal use amounts of marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

    Speaking during an online town hall in January, President Obama acknowledged that the subject of legalizing and regulating marijuana was a “legitimate topic for debate.” Yet last week Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, boasted that he would not even consider scheduling the measure for a public hearing. On Friday, when NORML requested its members to contact Rep. Smith’s office, the Congressman promptly shut off his DC office phone and later closed down his Facebook page.

    It’s obvious why marijuana prohibitionists like Rep. Smith will go to such lengths to try and stifle any public discussion of the matter. Over the past 70+ years, the federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public’s demand or access to cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people. Further, this policy promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement.

    Since 1970, police have arrested over 20 million American citizens for marijuana offenses — nearly 90 percent of which were prosecuted for the personal possession of marijuana, not marijuana trafficking or sale. Yet today federal surveys indicate that the public, including America’s young people, have greater access to marijuana — including stronger varieties of marijuana — than ever before. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to unregulated, criminal entrepreneurs and allow states to enact common sense regulations that seek to govern the adult use of marijuana in a fashion similar to alcohol.

    After 70 years of failure it is time for an alternative approach. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 is an ideal first step.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 24, 2011

    Almost as if on cue from a movie director, the head of the Judiciary Committee in the US House of Representatives, ‘conservative’ Republican from Texas Lamar Smith, has provided both cannabis law reformers and the general public a typical up-close view of why the US Congress—the creator of Cannabis Prohibition laws in 1937 and later the Controlled Substances Act of 1970—rarely seems to work the way it was intended. One person, either ignorant or uninformed, can block consideration of a controversial political issue if he or she wishes to do so. And the ability to do this only increases with time, as the legislator gains seniority and become a committee or subcommittee chairperson.

    Rep. Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, responded to press inquiries yesterday about the new federal legalization bill, that will be referred to his committee, saying he had no intention of considering the bill, or even giving it a public hearing. Unfortunately, under current Congressional rules, a committee chairman is given great discretion regarding what bills to consider, and which to ignore, and it is only when another member or members of that committee, or the general public, make a big deal out of it that sometimes one can overcome the stiff opposition of a committee chair.

    One promising fact is that the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers, JR, is a co-sponsor of HB 2306, and should serve as a counter-balance to the opposition of the chairman.

    Smith’s anti-cannabis salvo against the new legalization bill should inspire cannabis consumers and activists to redouble their efforts this year to get as many co-sponsors as possible for HR 2306, and to recruit and elect political candidates to Congress who no longer embrace reefer madness or favor continuing—possibly for another 74 years—the status quo of arresting another cannabis consumer every 35 seconds in America.

    NORML and our supporters decided to reach out to Representative Smith today, to let him know we considered HR 2306 sound public policy that deserved a hearing. Instead of addressing the concerns of the general public, Smith removed his page from Facebook and wiped it clean of any and all comments posted in support of the bill. Further commenting was also disabled on the page. Once one too many calls began coming into his congressional offices and the extension for the House Judiciary Committee, a prerecorded message was posted stating that his office was closed (it wasn’t, their operating hours on Friday are posted as until 6pm EST).

    Even President Barack Obama has stated he considers legalization a legitimate topic for debate, so why is Rep. Lamar Smith stonewalling the legislation?

    NORMLtv is now streaming a new PSA targeting Smith and his refusal to engage this issue in a productive and rational way, which you can view above. We encourage you to continue contacting the chairman through his contact information listed below.

    Rep. Lamar Smith
    DC Office: 202-225-4236 (8:30 am- 6:00 pm EST)
    TX Office: 210-821-5024 (8:00 am- 5:00 pm CT)
    Web: http://lamarsmith.house.gov/

    You can also use NORML’s Take Action Center by clicking here and easily message your elected officials to encourage their support of this important legislation. Over 3,000 of you already have, let’s keep the pressure on!

    We appreciate your support and especially want to thank those who have been helping us push this issue today with Chairman Smith. We will be back in touch soon to ask for your further help as we find new ways to push this new legislation forward.

    Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest marijuana news and further updates on HR2306.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 22, 2010

    Texas GOP drug warrior Rep. Lamar Smith (21st District) lashed out at the Obama administration yesterday on Fox News (Watch the video here.) — claiming that the President is ‘soft’ on pot and is refusing to enforce federal drug laws. But as I opine in today’s edition of The Hill.com’s Congress blog, Congressman Smith is fundamentally wrong on both counts.

    Failed marijuana policies are a bi-partisan boondoggle
    via The Hill

    [excerpt: read the full text here]

    Law enforcement officials prosecuted a near-record 858,408 persons for violating marijuana laws in 2009 – the first year of the Obama presidency. That total is the second highest annual number of pot prosecutions ever recorded in the United States.

    According to the arrest data, made public last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some 88 percent (758,593 Americans) of those charged with marijuana violations were prosecuted for possession only. The remaining 99,815 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses.

    Does any rational person really think that arresting and prosecuting nearly one million Americans annually for their use of a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol exemplifies a ‘soft’ – or better yet, sound – public policy?

    Rep. Smith further claims that the administration has abdicated the enforcement of federal drug laws in the fourteen states that have legalized the physician-supervised use of marijuana since 1996. Not so. Despite promises from the U.S. Attorney General to respect the laws of these 14 states, the September 21 edition of DC’s Daily Caller reports that just the opposite is taking place.

    In an article entitled, ‘DEA, DOJ stay mum on medical marijuana raids,’ reporter Mike Riggs states: “Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t stopped raiding marijuana dispensaries operating in states where sale of the drug is legal for medical purposes. But the DOJ has demonstrated one marked change now that it’s under Democratic control: The department has stopped publicizing medical marijuana raids, both by requesting that more cases be sealed under court order and by refusing to distribute press releases.”

    The story goes on to cite details of over a dozen recent federal raids of medical marijuana providers in California, Colorado, Michigan, and Nevada – all states that have approved the cultivation and possession of medical marijuana.

    Of course, if the stricter enforcement of marijuana laws – as Rep. Lamar advocates – was really the solution to curbing Americans’ appetite for pot then how does one explain this? Since 1965, police have arrested over 21 million Americans for violating marijuana laws; yet according to the World Health Organization more Americans consume marijuana than do citizens of any other country in the world.

    Rather than scapegoating the new administration, which has done little to alter longstanding U.S. marijuana policy, Rep. Smith ought to reconsider the past 40 years of failed drug war policies. … It is time to replace failed marijuana prohibition with a system of legalization, sensible regulation, taxation, and education.

    The Hill’s ever-popular Congress blog ‘is where lawmakers come to blog.’ It’s also where legislators and other politicos come to gauge the pulse of the public. Given that this is a paper of record on Capitol Hill, why not send Rep. Smith and his colleagues a message that their anti-marijuana rhetoric is woefully out of touch with voter sentiment? You can make your voice heard by leaving your feedback here.

    If you live in Texas (particularly if you live in the 21st District, which includes the cities of Austin, San Marcos, Kerrville, and San Antonio), you can also contact Rep. Smith directly here.